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Learning to Cook Like an Italian

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Of course, Italians are famous for their delicious food and I have sampled as much of it and as wide of a variety as I possibly can, but it isn’t just about eating the food. It Italy, food is a way for people to come together, socialize and bond. The dinners are longer and more courses, which gives ample time for loved ones to enjoy each other’s company. Cooking is a part of this process too. The Italian way to cook means buying all fresh ingredients and cooking together. I am by no means a chef. Fortunately, pasta is a staple part of the diet here in Italy and something simple that even I can handle. However, I wanted to broaden my horizons and learn how to cook some other, more complicated Italian dishes. I have had the pleasure of taking two cooking classes so far over this semester.

The first cooking class I took was part of my Intensive Italian course. Part of our assignment for the course was to go out to the market and order all of the ingredients we needed in only Italian. It can be a little intimidating going into a huge, unfamiliar food market and trying to order in a foreign language, but I’m so glad we did it! Our group was able to find and order everything we needed without using any English and now I actually love going to the market. It is great practice for Italian, all of the food is very fresh, and if you go to the same stand each time, you start to form a relationship with them.

For our first course in the cooking class, we made Zuppa di Lenticchie (Lentil Soup). Next, we had Peperoni al Forno (Baked Peppers). One interesting difference in food names in Italy is that what we typically think of as pepperoni in the US, is not at all the same here. Peperoni here just means peppers, so essentially bell peppers. The following course was a tasty Insalata Ricca (a type of salad). Next up was my group! We made Mozzarella in Carrozza, which is comparable to mozzarella sticks, but they are not entirely breaded and are even more delicious. Finally, we had a dessert of Salame di Cioccolato. When I first heard this, I was prepared to be disgusted. How can salami and chocolate possibly taste good together? I soon found out that Salame di Cioccolato doesn’t actually contain salami. It is just called that because it is made in a sort of log shape and looks almost like salami.

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Me looking a little terrifying with a huge knife while I cut bread for our mozzarella in carrozza

In the second cooking class I took, we learned how to make pasta from scratch! It actually was a lot easier than I expected and I can now say from experience that handmade pasta from scratch is, in fact, the best pasta. All it takes is a little flour and egg, mix it together until you get the proper consistency, and then just keep rolling it out until you get it flat enough to cut into pasta noodles.

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Carefully handling our fresh hand-made pasta

For dessert, we made small pastries that look like pies, but are similar to the consistency of cheesecake, as they are made with ricotta. We made a mixture of orange and chocolate pastries and tried them all together. I might be biased, but I swear my pastry was the best.

I still may not be ready to go on Master Chef, but I can say I know how to cook at least a few traditional Italian dishes and had a lot of fun while doing it. I definitely plan on cooking some more home made meals here in Italy and maybe I’ll even continue cooking them in the States!

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5 Things I Learned from My Semester Abroad

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Surprisingly, this is the hardest post I’ve had to write. It’s hard to sum up a four month, life changing experience in a certain amount of words. It was hard to figure out which angle to even discuss this from. However, I think the best way to do it is by listing and discussing the top 5 things I learned throughout this experience. I hope that they will come in handy for anyone who is planning on studying abroad and I also do have to warn that although these things sound cheesy, or obvious, or both, they’re a little harder to do when you’re actually confronted with the culture shock.

1: It will not be comfortable at first, give it time.
Yeah, you’re gonna squirm and have to wiggle your way in and out of situations (and if you’re going to Rome, then also through sidewalks because Romans don’t necessarily enjoy moving out of people’s way). But, with the more necessary Italian you learn, and the more you come to know as familiar, the more it will become comfortable, routine even. The most important thing to do is to give it time and (in most cases) forget the comfort zone.

2: Try all kinds of new things. 
I do mean all kinds. Go to an art museum that you’re not sure you would like, take a class you’re not sure you would be interested in, try food you wouldn’t otherwise try, wander if you usually plan and plan if you usually wander. I know it’s a bit cliche, but taking a semester abroad really helps you learn about yourself. However, having that full experience only truly comes if you’re willing to do things you haven’t done before in order to experience a new culture to the best of your capabilities.

3: Don’t be afraid to do the tourist attractions.
They are not lame or overrated, they are tourist-havens for a reason. Especially in Rome where things can be 2,500+ years old, it’s important to go see the tourist attractions and learn about the history of the place that you’re inhabiting, especially when it comes to the ways it shapes the contemporary climate of the country that you are temporarily living in. It’s also just plain fun and interesting. The Colosseum and Trevi Fountain are awesome, the Pantheon is beautiful, everything that people rave about that are must-sees in Rome are worth exploring.

4: Stay in Rome more often then you think you would like to.
Though I believe I stayed in Rome and in Italy more than some would while abroad, I definitely didn’t stay enough. I got so swept up with how cheap and easy it was to travel to other European cities/countries that I’ve always wanted to visit, but in the end, I did wish that I stayed in Rome and Italy just for one or two more weekends to explore some more. The weird thing about studying abroad here is that you feel like you’ve been here long enough by the end but also feel like you need an infinite amount more of time to really see everything.

5: Don’t forget to have fun! This is a once in a lifetime chance so soak it all in!
This experience was so much fun and incredible for me! I met friends that I hope will be my friends for a long time, I’ve seen things I’ve always dreamed of seeing and done things I’ve always dreamed of doing. I learned so much about myself and made some decisions about what I want for my future and what I don’t want for my future. I’ve taken classes I wouldn’t have even dreamed of taken and learned so much more because of it. I really tried to make this entire trip worth it and I hope that everyone else will try to do the same with any trip or big adventure/opportunity that they embark on.

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As Expected: The Food is Great

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No one’s surprised.

As I’m going through finals and my last week in Italy, I’ve been trying to have all of the food I know I’m going to miss. I decided to give anyone reading this some ideas for really good Italian delicacies to seek out if they ever decide to come here.

First thing’s first, suppli/arancini:
These little fried balls of rice, tomato, and mozzarella are probably the equivalent to heaven. There are many different types, but the general common idea is that it is a fried ball filled with rice. You can get some with meat in them or you can get some with spinach, etc. They are always delicious and always a good way to make your soul happy! 🙂

 

Wild Boar Pasta
Okay, hear me out. It is so good. It doesn’t taste particularly gamey, more like a type of beef and in the sauce that usually comes with this pasta, there is no other option but to get it and fall in love. It’s a nice spin on ragu so that you’re not always eating the simple tomato and ground beef bolognese/ragu sauce.

 

 

Cacio e Pepe
So simple, yet so good. This pasta is only pecorino cheese and black pepper, but that doesn’t make it any less delicious. It is definitely one of my favorite types of pasta that I have ever tasted. (I also much prefer this over carbonara, although carbonara is still pretty good.)

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Zucchini Flowers (Fiori di Zucca)
Okay, I guess I just really like fried things. But I also have a really good relationship with zucchini and these fried zucchini flowers just make it that much better. The Jewish Ghetto is known for them, but anywhere you get them will probably be delicious. Sometimes they’re filled with cheese and I almost have a deliciousness-induced heart attack.

Gelato
Yes, it’s different than ice cream. Yes, it’s delicious. I know I didn’t need to tell you, but it would’ve been criminally remiss to not include it.

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Panino
I know that there’s not much that seems different about having a sandwich, but there’s a lot actually. (Also: one sandwich is a “panino,” multiple are “panini,” and none of them are pressed–that’s something different.) Most of the difference comes from the fresh ingredients one can find for their sandwich. Besides, obviously, having more options in terms of prosciutto and cold cuts, there’s also more options in terms of cheese, pesto, eggplant, etc., that one may not find in a deli in the States.

Pizza
Italian pizza is as good as you would expect it to be. Considering that pizza is an Italian invention, I think it’s safe to say that this pizza is the best pizza I’ve ever had. There are so many different types and they’re all so good. I’ve tried so many kinds and can’t tell you of a single kind not to get.

Pesto
Just anything with pesto. I do mean anything: panini, pizza, pasta, anything. Authentic pesto is so incredible. It’s also interesting to see how every place has pesto that’s slightly different, but still delicious all the same.

The food has honestly been one of my favorite parts of studying abroad and I’m really happy that I got to share this with people studying abroad in the future. Happy eating!

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Temple Rome’s 50th Anniversary

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There have been a lot of events surrounding Temple Rome because next May will be Temple University Rome’s 50th anniversary. I was lucky enough to sit in and help with interviews for a video/documentary that will be shown at the big event here (in Rome) in May on the anniversary. I met a lot of interesting people related to Temple Rome while helping. I got to talk to current teachers who teach subjects I’m not taking and hear how they are finding Temple Rome. I also got to hear from teachers who went to Temple themselves about how much they love the program. In addition to former Temple students that are now teachers here at Temple Rome, I got to speak to former Temple Rome students from years ago that have since moved on but were called in to reflect on their experiences as a student here. One of them was a student at the University of Pennsylvania, who now lives in Rome. She is Italian-American and talked about her experience living here for the first time. (Obviously, she loved it so much that she moved here).

Also, my aunt went to Temple Rome in 1994, which is awesome. It was interesting to talk to her and hear that she had some of the same problems or reactions I had when I first came here. We commiserated about things such as the amount of dog fecal matter on the sidewalks, the confidence needed when crossing the street, and more! It’s also cool that we got to study in the same exact building in a foreign country, and that we had some of the same experiences. She liked walking around the piazzas, just like I do.

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Then I got to give my interview, which was really cool! I’m excited to see the final video. I was a little nervous to provide one of the few voices of current students in the Temple Rome program, but I was honest about how much I love what Temple does here. Especially the student-life personnel who are always there to answer any questions from something big and important like: “I lost my passport, what do I do?” or “I lost my phone, what do I do?” to something fun and trivial like “Where should we go eat if we want to have really good carbonara?”

 

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My aunt in Temple Rome in 1994

I love that Temple Rome has this legacy that comes with its history of being here in Rome for 50 years. I think that it gives the program a certain seal of approval in terms of its constant success. And its longevity fosters the idea that it’s trustworthy in terms of providing you with an awesome experience (although that also comes with someone actively seeking out the experience as well). Hearing how much has changed and how much hasn’t changed in terms of Rome and Temple’s program, I realized how lucky I am to be here (not that I don’t feel that every time I wake up and walk past the Vatican walls, etc.), but specifically how lucky I am to be a part of Temple’s program, especially as a Temple student.

 

European Integration: From Rome to Brussels and Back Again

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Recently, my political science class went to Brussels to visit the various EU institutional buildings. In class, we have been learning about the EU institutions, their impact on Europe as a whole, and how they relate to the United States. We have discussed the most recent US election and its impact, the migrant/immigration crisis compared to the US, the founding ideas of the EU and their similarities to the US, and so much more comparing my new temporary home to my original one. It was incredible to be able to take a relatively quick flight there to experience the things that we have been learning about here in Rome and to put them into context. We walked past the EU Commissions building and spent time in the Parlimentarium museum which is the single-most interactive museum I have ever been to (excluding the Please Touch Museum in Philly, of course). They had audioguides that explained major events in Europe and the US per decade, maps you could touch and highlight, many different electronic interfaces with even more information, and so much more. It was cool to see lots of other people there involving themselves in the information presented to them in various ways. Also, as an English major (not a Political Science major), I found it helpful to go through the museum and have the lessons we learned in class be presented in a different way.

Brussels is an interesting city that is different from Rome in a lot of ways. First, mainly considering size. Brussels is a lot smaller than Rome (although we didn’t have much time to experience the whole expanse of Brussels, the size difference was still evident), and the cultural and historical backgrounds of the city are entirely different as well. The main thing about Rome that seems incomparable to any other city that I have visited is the sense of history that Rome has. While walking through the city, you can feel yourself walking on 2,000+ years of history. What was cool about Brussels was the history that was evident there, but in a more modern frame. Going to the Museum of the City of Brussels in the Grand Place was a great way to feel the history of the city that can’t be as obviously felt as in Rome when you can casually walk by monuments like the Colosseum.

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It was also interesting to see the amount of Italian restaurants or restaurants that served some sort of Italian food in Brussels. I noticed the same thing in Vienna, though that makes a bit more sense considering that Austria shares a border with Italy. It seems no matter where I go, I can’t get away from carbonara pasta (although I’m not sure I’d necessarily want to). I enjoy seeing the overlap of European countries’ cultures in other cities. Things like finding Belgian beer and chocolate in other countries besides Brussels, or carbonara in other countries besides Italy is really cool to me. We also discussed in my political science class, the idea of being European and how that doesn’t hold much weight in terms of its nationalism or unifying power as being an “American” does, but I find in very subtle ways that this sentiment may not be true or the difference may not be as polarized. I think Europe is integrated and proud in many different ways, sometimes reflected in the restaurants you just happen to walk into.

Standing on History

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On Friday, a few fellow students and I went to the town of Artena with our professor, Jan Gadeyne, to visit his archeological excavation site. Artena is a small town only about an hour outside of Rome with a small population of friendly people. Our first stop was at the museum of Artena, where we saw many of the pieces that had been excavated from the ancient villa that Professor Gadeyne is currently working on (others had worked on this same site before him). There we saw pieces of pottery that had weathered with time, but still managed to survive. We saw beautiful painted pieces of tile and cement that were used in the buildings along with coins that help historians place the villa in an era/time period and give clues as to the type of people who lived there. We were also shown pieces of a cistern, most likely used for collecting rain water seeing as the villa resides on a tall hill. Along with many other artifacts, Professor Gadeyne painted a nice picture for us of what life was like in this villa.

After we toured the small museum, we went to see the actual excavation site. We took a bus up to the hill in Artena and walked to the relative top where we saw what looked like a blueprint of a house except made in the ground with the outlines defining the rooms made (in actuality) from stone in soil where the walls of the separate buildings had since been buried over time, originating from centuries BCE. We were told that the villa being excavated had been created from a succession of people coming in, building structures, abandoning them, and then another group coming in and doing the same thing. As we walked around, we saw enormous storage pots that had been left there, the other part of the cistern that was not exhibited in the museum, rooms that looked to be storage rooms, common areas, etc. Professor Gadeyne told us that, in its most recent state, the area was probably some type of factory/storage. They would store the product that the factory made (maybe legumes) in the big pots which where then put in the storage rooms. We also saw the places where Professor Gadeyne and his team had excavated many graves of infants/newborn children who had been placed in clay pots and buried.

We were standing on tangible history from around 4th/5th century BCE learning about it first hand with an expert who was able to divulge all the details. While going to the Colosseum, the Pantheon, the Forum, etc., it’s also very interesting to find the history that’s not so famous but just as important. Sometimes it’s even super close to where you currently are! Rome is full of so many incredible historical areas and evidence that it’s easy to stumble upon an insane piece of history, like the plaques on the ground commemorating the lives of the Roman Jewish population that were taken from their homes during World War II. It’s also a great place to ask your teachers for advice on where you should go based on your academic interests. They know where the coolest places are for art history majors, classics majors, and so many more.

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Missing Home in Rome: 5 Ways How to Enjoy Rome from the Get-Go

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Ciao! I’m Nate Schrader and studied in Temple Rome ’08. I’ve used a bunch of my Rome experiences to write for our TravelProducts.com blog, but this post isn’t about which travel adapter you need to prevent your laptop from exploding (I can help with that too). This blog is for the students about overcoming those feelings of homesickness so you get the most out of your Rome experience right away. After the awesome orientation activities end and the excitement fades just a bit, here are a few easy ways to avoid missing home and make the most out of the next three months.

  1. Get off Facebook!!! You came to study in Rome, right? Not spend your days in the Residencia! Facebook can be great for creating a Rome group to organize group trips and find people interested in going to that next museum or hill town, but looking at college friends’ pictures of what’s going on back home will only make you miss it more. Send your messages, “Friend” some Temple Rome students, and go explore!
  2. Explore together. Being the fall semester, no one has studied in Rome and seen everything yet. And just like you, they want to see the Spanish Steps, the Trevois Fountain, venture to Trestevere, and find the beach off the train. Pick something to do, ask a few people, and learn about Rome while making friendships along the way.
  3. Vent. You might not know anyone well yet, but most times others are going through the same troubles you are. They have close family back home, boyfriends/girlfriends, and best college friends and you can bet they miss them like crazy too. My advice: walk to Old Bridge gelato by the Vatican, vent on the way there, and when you finish your gelato talk only about how much fun you plan to have the next few weeks.
  4. Stay busy & Plan Ahead. You never know what can set off a memory to cause homesickness. The key is an activity requiring thought to distract your thoughts, so plan ahead if you think it’ll be a rough day. Ask a few people to go somewhere. Chances are, they’ll say yes or invite you to their plans.
  5. Talk to the locals. The sandwich shop and the pizza places off the Popolo subway stop have the friendliest, most helpful people I’ve met. Italians are such genuine people, you’re bound to leave with a smile on your face (not to mention you leave both places with food!).

Oh! And if all else fails, talk to Gianni! I could write a blog just on that guy and his enthusiasm and friendliness. He’s been with the program for awhile and knows what you’re going through. It’s absolutely impossible to chat with him and not laugh.

Bio: After graduating Wabash College and studying in Rome of ’08, Nate Schrader now writes about all things travel for TravelProducts.com. He really enjoys helping study abroad students and travel but also runs obstacle marathons and loves listening to live music.